Are Cashews Bad For You?


Cashews on Tree

Are cashews bad for you? Cashews are very useful versatile nuts ‒ it is used as snacks, as an ingredient and garnishing, in medicines, and even made into butter and milk. There are good benefits to eating cashew, however, it has several drawbacks, too.

But, cashews are so yummy, how could they have drawbacks? A simple answer to that question is that it has a toxic resin that may cause skin irritation, allergies, and anaphylaxis. So proper handling and shelling must be done to obtain its seed. Though it poses toxicity and possible harm, eating cashews still has many good effects on our bodies. 

Learn more about its toxic potential below and how can it affect our body in both good and bad ways. We will also tackle how many cashew nuts can you consume daily and what are its health benefits, so keep on reading!

What Is Bad About Eating Cashews?

Cashews are considered one of the best foods for our bodies, especially the brain. They are one of the favorite ingredients in Asian and Indian cuisines since they can enhance the food’s flavor. However, it may pose some risk, too, just like any other nut. 

The cashew (Anacardium occidentale) is a seed of a tropical evergreen shrub belonging to the Anacardiaceae family. The mangoes, pistachios, and poison ivy, are also found in the same family. They are grown mainly in countries with warm, humid climates, such as Vietnam, Nigeria, India, Brazil, and Indonesia. 

Cashews are somewhat weird, I must say. Its seed hangs from the bottom of the cashew apple outside, in contrast with most the fruits having their seeds grow inside them. The cashew seed is encased by two hard layers of a shell, with a phenolic resin called urushiol in between. 

You may have noticed that they belong to the same family of poison ivy. Well, urushiol is the same substance that causes blistering rash after contact with poison ivy. Due to this reason, this resin is removed during shelling and is never sold with shell.

Cashews are usually reported as a common tree nut allergy. It can cause a more severe allergic reaction compared to the common peanut reaction. Allergies in cashew can both affect children and adults, which can be lethal and cause anaphylaxis. 

Another downside of cashews is their high levels of added oils or salt when it is cooked. Anyhow, we can opt for the unsalted or the dried roasted ones instead.

How Many Cashews Should You Eat In A Day?

Cashews are packed with numerous nutrients and minerals. You’ll find a table below showing the nutritional profile comparison of raw cashew and dried roasted (with and without salt added) per 100 grams serving (one average cashew nut weight is 1.5 grams):

Per 100 gramsRaw Cashew NutDried Roasted Cashew (With Salt Added)Dried Roasted Cashew (Without Salt Added)
Calories553 kcal574 kcal580 kcal
Water5.2 g1.7 g3.48 g
Protein18.2 g15.3 g16.8 g
Total Lipid (fat)43.8 g46.4 g47.8 g
Carbohydrate30.2 g32.7 g29.9 g
Total Dietary Fiber3.3 g3 g3.3 g
Total Sugar5.91 g5.01 g5.01 g
Starch23.5 g10.9 g
Calcium37 mg45 mg43 mg
Iron6.68 mg6 mg6.05 mg
Magnesium292 mg260 mg273 mg
Phosphorus593 mg490 mg531 mg
Potassium660 mg565 mg632 mg
Sodium12 mg640 mg13 mg
Zinc5.78 mg5.6 mg5.35 mg
Copper2.2 mg2.22 mg2.04 mg
Manganese1.66 mg0.826 mg1.67 mg
Selenium19.9 mg11.7 mg20.3 mg
Ascorbic Acid 0.5 mg0 mg0.3 mg
Thiamine0.423 mg0.2 mg0.363 mg
Riboflavin0.058 mg0.2 mg0.218 mg
Niacin1.06 mg1.4 mg1.74 mg
Pantothenic Acid0.864 mg1.22 mg0.88 mg
Pyridoxine0.417 mg0.256 mg0.323 mg
Total Folate25 µg69 µg25 µg 

Cashews are good sources of healthy fats. 82% of this is unsaturated fatty acids (UFA), of which, 66% are considered heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). This agreeable ratio of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) is the ideal ratio for optimal health essential in the normal functioning of the body.

The cashews also contain sugars, primarily sucrose, and lesser amounts of fructose and galactose. Also, most of its carbohydrates are starch. In addition, we have this so-called glycemic index. It is a system that takes serving size into account when estimating a food’s impact on blood sugar. Cashews have a relatively low glycemic index (estimated value is 3), hence it is considered a low glycemic. Foods with a glycemic index of 10 or less are optimal for our health.

Cashews are also rich in elements or macronutrients needed by the body in large amounts, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc. It also has micronutrients, which means they are needed in small amounts, and includes copper, manganese, selenium, and several B vitamins.

So, now the question is ⎼ how many cashews should you eat in a day? According to a weight management expert, Dr. Gargi Sharma, he suggested that we should eat about 4 to 5 cashew nuts a day

Health Benefits of Cashews

Cashew is a very useful nut that has various benefits that can be used both in nutrition and medicine. Here are some of its incredible benefits:

Heart Health 

Studies show that eating cashews help in lowering our cholesterol and triglyceride levels, thus decreasing the risks of stroke and heart disease. It can help lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or the ‘bad cholesterol’ and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or the ‘good cholesterol’. Emerging evidence also shows that it helps reduce oxidative stress, aids in inflammation, and increases vascular reactivity. 

Brain Health

Since cashew contains an adequate ratio between the MUFA and PUFA, they are considered brain boosters. They maintain brain health and assist in memory. Additionally, its copper content is helpful in producing several hormones and enzymes, such as dopamine and serotonin, which improve our mental health.

Prevent Blood Disease

Due to their high copper content, consumption of this nut on a regular basis may help in preventing blood diseases since it can help in eliminating free radicals. Therefore, eating cashews can prevent copper deficiency, which could ultimately lead to anemia.

Help And Prevent Diabetes

Cashews are excellent sources of fiber that are believed to offer protection against type 2 diabetes. In one study, it was suggested that eating cashews could lower insulin levels, a blood sugar marker, than those who did not eat cashews at all. 

Also, replacing foods using the high net carbohydrate and sugar from cashews can decrease blood sugar levels. Still, studies focusing on its ability to help and prevent diabetes control still call for more studies to support these findings.

Reduce Risk Of Gallstones

Increased cashew nut consumption can decrease the incidence of gallstones in both men and women. One study showed that those women who took an ounce of nuts every week have a 25% lower risk of progressing to gallstones and gallbladder diseases.

Healthy Eyes

A handful of cashew contains a powerful antioxidant pigment called zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid molecule that can be found in eye cells. It is useful in reducing age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts, particularly in the elderly. It also filters and protects the eye tissue from harmful sunlight, thus it helps in maintaining eye health.

Prevent Breast And Cervical Cancer

Anacardic acid is a compound commonly found in the Anacardiaceae family. It can be extracted from the cashew nut shell liquid and is said to inhibit breast carcinoma cells from forming. It is also suggested that it has cytotoxic activity against cervix carcinoma cells.

Weight Loss

Cashews have a bad image of increasing the body weight, at first. However, studies now have associated that nut-rich diets help in reducing weight instead. One reason for this is because it contains fewer calories than once thought. 

Roasting or grinding the nuts may increase also the number of calories absorbed, plus, not to mention that they have large amounts of dietary fiber and protein, which could aid in losing weight. They also help in reducing feelings of hunger and increase satiety.

Source Of Dietary Fibers

The two essential dietary fibers that our bodies require and must consume exogenously are oleic acid the palmitic acid. The good news is cashews are a good source of these two dietary fibers which can help in digesting our foods and they have been linked to decreased incidences of several digestive diseases.

Health And Shiny Hair

When applied to the hair, cashew oil can help in producing melanin, a pigment essential for our hairs and skin. Also, linoleic acid and oleic acid enhance the hair color and provide a smoother and silkier hair texture.

Final Thoughts About Cashews

The bottom line here is that cashew is a one-of-a-kind nut. Cashews are so nutritious and have many benefits for our bodies. They are also considered generally safe to eat. So are cashews bad for you? Well, I would say it is somewhere in between. It has both good and bad effects, however, these bad effects are mainly because of its association with allergies and toxicities, to which we can easily find solutions to ⎻ avoiding skin contact with raw cashews and eating it in moderation. 

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Frederik Lamote

Frederik is the founder of EYWA design, a startup that is 3D printing Treehouses. While exploring treehouse locations around the world he got fascinated by the value and products trees produce.

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